Can’t Miss Episode of the Week: ‘Dopesick’ Sets a Trap

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Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one! Spoilers ahead.

It’s difficult to pick out one episode of Dopesick to spotlight. Hulu’s drama about how Purdue Pharma created OxyContin, lied to everyone about how addictive it is, and started the opioid epidemic in this country, is consistently high quality. Every episode, which spans multiple timelines and characters, digs deeper through the layers of the rotting onion of corruption and greed. What makes this episode, however, titled “Hammer the Abusers,” which dropped on November 3, stand out, is the final scene where Rosario Dawson’s DEA agent thinks she finally has what she needs to nail Purdue for their crimes.

Agent Bridget Meyer goes through the entire range of emotions this episode. Having grown up in a community devastated by drugs, she takes this crisis personally. In one of the opening shots, we see a kid snorting his pills. It’s the same kid, Lucas (Kire Elsasser), that Bridget had encountered in episode 2 and had tried to convince him that the path he was on would only lead to death. The fact that he’s back, and he looks worse than ever is a bad sign. After a marriage counseling session all about how Bridget is spending all of her time and energy on this crusade against Purdue, and how it’s tanking her relationship with her husband (Raúl Esparza), she goes right into trying to take on even more.

Another meeting with the FDA leads her to believe if she can gather enough reports of people overdosing on Oxy while taking it as prescribed, then maybe the FDA will reconsider its labeling of the drug as non-addictive. When a colleague tells her that what she’s asking for is going to be very difficult, she responds, “Well, I’m a very difficult woman. Let’s do it.” It’s a snappy one-liner designed to live in the brain long after the episode is already over, and Dawson delivers it perfectly, but it also tells us a lot about her – Bridget has a one-track mind; she’s willing to sacrifice her marriage, her time, to get this right. Even her hero, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (Trevor Long), telling her to back off of Purdue will not sway her an inch, though you can see how much it breaks her heart to hear this from someone she looks up to so much as the smile slides from her face (never meet your heroes kids!).

Remember that teenage boy I mentioned earlier, Lucas? We see the full impact of this case hit Bridget when she reads his obituary and learns he overdosed. As compelling as she is when she aggressively works to take down Purdue, she’s even more compelling when she’s crying, letting herself feel the full weight of this death, representative of all the deaths she feels responsible to prevent. This is a heroine viewers can invest in, and at the end of the episode, she gets a major win.

After her initial approach for assessing overdoses fails, she finds another way to come at the problem, and this time, it’s a slam dunk. When her team proudly hands her their revised report to show to the FDA, she immediately has to leave the room so that she can lock herself in the bathroom and fully let out her feelings. She looks at the report with reverence, and then at herself in the mirror, and that’s when we get it: the moment. She triumphantly says, “I f***ing got you, you lying motherf***ers!” In that moment she lets out all of her rage at Purdue, and her elation at feeling like she’s finally going to succeed.

It’s an incredibly cathartic moment for viewers. It’s difficult not to yell “yes!” in response. But what comes next is the sinking feeling, because we remember that, in episode 1, the first thing we learn about Bridget is that she went after Purdue and failed. So even now, when it seems like she’s going to win, we know that she won’t. The show has set an excellent trap, making us get invested and root for her, all while still knowing she’s going to lose.

There is so much else going on in this episode. Samuel (Michael Keaton) and Betsy (Kaitlyn Dever) have parallel stories of getting clean for about a minute, and then relapsing. West Virginia U.S. attorneys Rick (Peter Sarsgaard) and Randy (John Hoogenakker) chase down a new lead and learn the story of what happened with the Maine U.S. attorney (David Alexander), who went after Purdue a few years before – annoyingly, but unsurprisingly, he now works for Purdue. But it’s worth singling out Bridget’s arc this episode because the show goes so deep into her character, and because when you finish the episode, her face and voice are going to be what you will remember, and what will haunt you until next week’s episode.

Other observations we thought made this episode stand out:

  • Randy is so unfailingly positive even after three years of working this terrible case and pushing that boulder up the mountain, and we don’t know how he does it, but we love him for it.

Dopesick, Wednesdays, Hulu

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